5 Great ways to make time work for you

timing, time management

In today’s post, I’m sharing 5 ideas with you that are all based on the same important theme… time. Here they are, in no particular order.

  1. Consistently showing up on time, is a great way to build a reputation for reliability. The marketplace values people who can be relied upon to turn up. It’s also one of the hallmarks of a true professional.
  2. Sending your mailing or newsletter out at the right time, is essential if you want to maximise its effectiveness. Despite what some people claim, there is no set time, which is correct for every business or every industry. You need to test different times and measure the feedback. In a relatively short time, you’ll know exactly when to publish.
  3. Learning how to get the most from your work time, is the key to exceptional productivity. Much has been written on time management. The key thing is to learn how to do first things first. Rather than respond to the day and the whims of others, set your day out, in order, and make that your framework. It also pays to regularly ask yourself; “Is this the best use of my time, right now?” If the answer is No, go and do whatever you should be doing.
  4. Showing respect for other people’s time, is an important professional development skill. Here’s why: People are busy. As a result, they’re instantly turned off those, who waste their time.
  5. Finishing projects on time, is so rare that it sets you head and shoulders above the competition. In this post, I explain how you can also build trust using this simple idea.

I hope you found these useful. If you did, invest some time putting at least one of these points into action.

What you need to know about networking groups

networking groups

People often ask me for tips on how to get better results from their networking groups. In today’s post I am going to share an idea, which is seldom covered regarding networking. Yet, it’s the core reason why networking groups fail for so many business owners.

Let’s start by being very clear about why small business owners join and attend networking groups. The primary reason they give me, is that they want to connect with people, who may be a source of referrals or connections, which lead to new clients or customers.

That’s what I’m going to focus on here. I’m also primarily addressing physical networking groups, though the concept works for online networking too.

Getting the word out

When a business or project is new, it needs a push. The word can’t spread until you, as the business owner, start talking. In the early days, connecting with people who can help you spread the word is essential.

However, once a business is established or a project is no longer new, you shouldn’t need to keep attending networking groups, in order to get leads. There’s no need to keep pestering people to recommend you.

Here’s why:

  • Remarkable services spread.
  • Remarkable stories spread.
  • Remarkable resources spread.

Once you get the word out. Once people have heard about what you do. Once you start delighting your first clients or customers, the word will spread and you will attract regular enquiries from eager, prospective clients.

A remarkable problem

Of course, the typical small business owner chooses not to build a remarkable business. They want to play it safe and be just like their competitors.

For example, think about the service providers in your town, who are in the same industry as one another. They offer a very similar range of services, make very similar promises and charge very similar fees. They’re totally, utterly unremarkable.

So, instead of attracting high quality enquiries from eager clients, they need to push, push, push. This is where networking groups come in.

An unremarkable business has no legs

No matter how well the owner of an unremarkable business “works the room” at networking events. No matter how aggressively they push members of their networking group for leads… there’s a limit on what they can achieve. It’s a pretty low, uninspiring limit too.

They may, just may, manage to make an average living, doing average work, charging average fees to average clients.

Eating soup with a fork

Focusing on the best way to generate great clients or customers via networking groups, is like seeking the fastest way to eat soup, using a fork.

Yes, with practice you may be able to eat soup faster with a fork than the average business owner. But any business owner using a spoon, will make 100 times more progress than you.

You can get results from networking groups, but nothing like what you can achieve, when you learn how to attract clients through the effective marketing of a remarkable service.

Looking for better ways to push an unremarkable service at people is far less effective.

P.S. Here are 4 ways to attract more clients or sales enquiries.

Are you making any of these 5 serious marketing mistakes?

marketing tips, marketing ideas, sales

If you want to attract far more sales leads or client enquiries, here are 5 important areas to pay attention to. They are based on some extremely common marketing errors, which cost small business owners a fortune.

Here they are, in no particular order.

  1. Don’t promise a professional service, yet operate behind amateur looking branding. This creates a damaging mixed message, with the amateurism always drowning out the marketing message.
  2. Don’t claim to be passionate about your work, yet scream how excited you are that it’s Friday, all over your social networks. The massive majority of our prospective clients check us out, before calling or emailing us. If we’re that relieved to quit work, think of the message that sends out.
  3. Don’t claim to be reliable, yet seldom show up with new blog posts. [or have a news section on your website that hasn’t been updated in 6 months]. People judge us by what we do. So, if we claim to be reliable, yet leave a visible project neglected, it’s suggesting that we lack the professionalism to see things through.
  4. Don’t say your business is forward thinking, yet operate behind an outdated website. By allowing our business to be represented by an outdated website, we send 1 of the following 2 toxic messages to prospective clients. We either can’t afford a new website or we’re not professional enough to know how much it matters.
  5. Don’t promise a premium service, yet charge bargain basement fees. This is another example of a damaging mixed message. It immediately makes people think that something just isn’t right. We’ve been warned from childhood that if something seems too good to be true, it is. If our service is excellent, we need to show the value and then have the confidence to charge accordingly.

In business, everything counts

Even the things we think shouldn’t influence a prospective client or customer, will have either a positive or negative influence on them.

Maybe people shouldn’t form an immediate, negative impression of a business because their website looks shabby. Perhaps people should ignore the amateurish way a business is branded and still trust their promises of being dedicated professionals. However, the reality is that people are extremely influenced by what they see.

It pays us all to take an outside look at our business, from time to time. Does our overall image reflect well on the work we do, or create doubt in the mind of prospective clients / customers?

That’s not always an easy question for us to face. It is an important one, though.

How to avoid wasting money on advertising

advertising

Here’s how to avoid a common advertising mistake, which loses small business owners a fortune.

I’d like to start by asking you to consider the following question.

Who [not how many] are you reaching?

When it comes to advertising, relevance is more important than numbers.

Most small business owners buy advertising, based on the number of people who will read, watch or listen to the advertisement. It’s understandable, because that’s how ads are usually pitched to them. Those selling the ads know that when they approach a small business owner, who desperately needs to generate sales or enquiries, the BIG numbers sound very attractive.

What you need to know, in order to protect yourself from buying ineffective ads, is this:

It’s not about the number of people who will potentially see or hear your ad. It’s about who those people are.

Here’s an example of why the numbers are only a small part of the advertising equation. It’s from a reader who asked me to share her experience with you.

The ad reached 125,000 people… for just $475!

I was prompted to write today’s post, after Kelly emailed me to say she had recently paid for an advertisement that went into a newsletter, with a readership of 125,000 people. She explained that whilst the readership “wasn’t a great fit”, she thought $475 to reach all those people was a bargain.

Her advertisement generated 9 responses and no sales.

Here’s what she got, in return for $475:

  • 7 responses came from pushy advertising salespeople, trying to sell her more ads. This is common. Advertisers look for business owners who are buying ineffective ads. They know these are the easiest people to sell ads to.
  • 2 responses came from people who were totally unsuitable for the service she was advertising.

Like most small business owners, Kelly was seduced by the number (or reach) of the advertising, rather than who the advertising was reaching. Please don’t let that happen to you.

The sweet spot you’re aiming for is a well written ad, which reaches a targeted, large audience.

Here’s some useful information, with examples, on how to get your advertising right.

How to raise your business to a whole new level

business development, business growth,

If your business is growing slower than it should be, this post is just for you.

To get your business moving forward, there are 2 things you need to focus on. I have set them out as 2 questions. Oh, and don’t worry, I’m going to help you find your answers too!

So, here are the questions:

  1. What do you want to achieve with your business?
  2. Are you willing to pay the price?

What do you want to achieve with your business?

Many small business owners lack sufficient clarity, regarding what they want their business to achieve. When I ask them, they will often tell me things like; I want a profitable company, I want a thriving consultancy, I want to retire in comfort. They hardly ever give me anything specific.

The challenge here, is that without knowing what your ultimate business target or goal is, you have no way to measure if you’re on track or not.

This lack of clarity about what you specifically want to achieve, means it’s extremely easy for you to make poor long term decisions. It’s what causes hard working business owners to spin their wheels.

It’s like the old saying, “When you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there”. As a result, we find many hard working small business owners taking costly detours.

The key is to get specific… to describe, in detail, what you want to achieve with your business.

Here’s how to find your answer!

A great way to get really focused on what you want from your business, is to ask yourself this question:

If my business was perfect in every way, what would it look like?

Then, start writing your answer down in detail!

Avoid vague terms and use specifics. Include numbers in your answer whenever possible. For example, include things like:

  • What you want to generate in revenues and profits over the next year, 3 years, 5 years and 10 years.
  • What you want to earn from your business.
  • What you want your business to sell for, if your exit route is to cash in at some point.

You may also want to describe the type of clients you want, what your working day would look like, where you’d locate your business, etc. Make sure to include everything that matters to you.

Once you have a clearer picture of exactly what you want to achieve with your business, it’s time to answer that second question.

So, are you willing to pay the price?

You will seldom find a small business owner, who doesn’t work hard. That is not what this question is about.

The question is about whether we’re prepared to do everything required, to make that clear image of our future business a reality. The question asks us if we are prepared, time after time, to leave our comfort zones.

Success requires us to pay the price in advance. This means committing to do 100% of what’s required, rather than avoiding the necessary tasks, which we’re uncomfortable with. Hard work alone is not enough. If hard work was the key to success, our grandparents would have all been millionaires!

What next, Jim?

Once you have got clear about what you want and you have decided to do what’s required in order to achieve it, it’s time to take action.

The best place to start, is to take a look at your current business activities and investments. Then, eliminate everything that is not taking you toward your business goals [or targets].

Next, replace the activities that were taking your business nowhere, with ones that are consistent with your new, clearer picture of the business you want.

This is the starting point of creating a great strategy. If you need help getting your strategy right, this 2 hour session with me could be just what you need.

Help me to help you

Business development

If you’ve been thinking of working with me on my 1 Year Marketing Mentor Program, you’ll find today’s post extremely useful.

Why I’m writing this

I want to help you. Here’s the thing: I get around 130 emails every day from readers. This means it’s no longer possible for me to reply to everyone. If you’d like to find out about working with me, here’s what will guarantee your email gets a reply.

Provide as much information as you can

Around a third of the emails I receive are one sentence long and give me no idea what the emailer wants or needs. Please tell me what your business challenge is and include relevant details, such as how long you have been trading, your location etc. “Hi Jim, I need help, please send a quote” — isn’t enough.

Have a marketing budget

You would be amazed how many emails I receive from people, who tell me that they have either no marketing budget or a tiny budget. I’m not sure why they ask about hiring me when they have no funds. Still, people do exactly that, every working day.

So, why don’t I put a fee on the blog and make things easier?

The reason there’s no fee quoted for my 1 Year Marketing Mentor Program, is because there’s no set fee. The fee varies [literally] from client to client. It’s based on your unique needs and how much of my time I believe you’re likely to require, during our year together.

This allows me to make sure that clients who require less of my time, pay a significantly lower fee.

We’ll need to talk

For reasons outlined above, I can’t quote you a fee by email alone.

If you’re interested in working with me and you’ve provided enough information, the next step is for us to have a brief chat via the phone or Skype. That way, I can answer any questions you have about working with me. I can also find out exactly what you need. This then allows me to quote you your fee, there and then, during our chat.

I hope you found this useful. If you did, I look forward to hearing from you.

Stop working hard. Really. Stop it!

professional development,

A reader asked me why he’s making so little progress with his business, even though he’s working hard.

Here’s my answer. It’s not what you’re expecting!

Why hard work is not the answer

The problem here is that from childhood we’re told to study hard. Then we start our career and we’re told to work hard. Then we’re told to work hard and work smart. We’re even told to play hard.

Eventually we start to believe it. We start to believe that working hard or studying hard is the route to success. It isn’t. Not even close.

The most successful and happiest people in business do things very differently.

  • They work smart, sure, but they work with passion for what they do.
  • They study, of course, but they study with joy and excitement for what they’re about to discover.
  • They play, but they play with a limitless sense of fun, just like they did when they were kids.

Hard work. Hard life!

When you work hard, study hard and try hard, it’s obvious that life becomes hard. Both for you and those around you. No one deserves to live like that. Especially you.

The answer is as easy and as challenging as this:

If you love what you do, then work with love. If you don’t love what you do, either learn to love it or find something else to do. Soon you will discover that work is easier, more enjoyable and a lot more fruitful.

Warren Buffett is a billionaire, with more money than he will ever need. He could have retired decades ago. However, he chooses to carry on because he loves what he does and he works with passion. If it was a long, hard slog… he’d have quit as soon as he made his fortune.

In short: Stop making life so hard for yourself. Seriously. Live and work with joy and passion. When you do, it will improve every element of your life.

How to avoid working for clients who undervalue you

Business development, client fees

They say that money goes to money. And they’re absolutely correct. It does. In today’s post I’m going to explain how this works.

Once you understand how wealthy business owners get wealthier, you can adopt the same strategy and reap the rewards. Plus, you’ll never need to work for a low value client again.

Why money goes to money and what it means to your business

The idea behind that saying, is that people with lots of money find it easier to make even more money. Interestingly, a significant chunk of the equation is not the actual money that wealthy people have behind them. Instead, it’s the mindset behind wealthy business owners that helps them acquire more and more wealth.

We see this mindset in play, when we look at how business owners think, regarding the clients they choose to work with and the fees they are prepared to work for.

Here’s what we see:

  • Those who feel poor, will take on almost any new client who comes their way.
  • Those who feel financially strong, will usually cherry-pick who they work with. If they think someone is a bad fit or unprepared to pay what they are worth, they won’t work with them.

Under performing small businesses often struggle from year to year, because the business is run from a mindset of fear. As a result, they work for low fees and eagerly grab anything that comes their way.

This then ensures they stay in that fear cycle, as they never earn enough to become more selective about who they work with or what they charge.

I have met with business owners, who have been stuck in that cycle for a decade or more. They work hard. They often offer just as good a service as those charging far more than them. Yet, their focus on fear causes them to undervalue their work and lower the bar on the clients and fees they will accept.

How to escape the cycle

We have to start by understanding something fundamental:

A wealthy business owner would soon find themselves in trouble, if they were to apply that fear based thinking to their business development.

No business can thrive, working for peanuts and for clients who undervalue them.

Here’s what your escape plan looks like, if you want to break free from this cycle:

  • Gather the courage to start being selective regarding who you are prepared to work with. This may feel risky, but the riskiest thing you can do is carry on working for low value clients.
  • Offer the highest quality service you can. Look for ways to pump as much value into your work as possible. Create an amazing client experience, so that hiring you becomes a pleasure for your clients… an experience they will cherish and want to tell their friends about.
  • Then, adjust your fees up to reflect all that great value you deliver.

You need to do this before you become wealthy or you will find yourself stuck in the cycle.

Ironically, playing it safe, by working for low value clients for low fees is one of the riskiest things you can do. That’s worth remembering, the next time you accept a new client or quote a fee!

This will help

Here are all 3 parts of a series I wrote, on how to market your services to the best potential clients:

How to attract the best clients and the highest fees – Part 1.

How to attract the best clients and the highest fees – Part 2.

How to attract the best clients and the highest fees – Part 3.

What you need to know about Skills and Strategy

professional development,

One of the reasons small business owners often work hard, for too little reward, is that they confuse skills with strategy.

The difference between skills and strategy can be summed up like this:

Success is 20% skills and 80% strategy. You might know how to read… but more importantly, what do you plan to read?

When it comes to marketing, I’ve found that most small business owners score well on skills and poorly on strategy. They know how to do the mechanics (the 20%) of marketing, yet they achieve a fraction of the results they should be getting, because they are missing the strategy — the 80% that makes all the difference!

Right skills, wrong strategy

Unaware that their lack of an effective strategy is losing them a fortune, they carry on doing the right things, incorrectly.

Some extremely common examples you see every day include:

  • They may know how to set up a Twitter or Linkedin account, but they lack the strategy to transfer their time and effort, into bankable results.
  • They may know how to publish a newsletter, but they lack the strategy to turn it into a rapidly growing source of sales and business leads.
  • They may know how to answer the phone professionally, but they lack the strategy to transfer enough inbound inquiries into sales or new clients.
  • They may know how to set up a blog, but they lack the strategy to get thousands of people reading it and talking about it to their friends.
  • They may know how to write a marketing message, but they lack the strategy to inspire people to read it or compel readers to take action.

So, they say they tried [whatever type of marketing] ‘but it doesn’t work’. It does work – but not if you’re doing it incorrectly.

Here’s the thing: Very, very few small business owners have an effective strategy for any of their marketing. They simply copy what they see others doing – even though the people they copy are equally baffled and are also following what THEY see others doing.

This approach is something I call, follow-the-follower. What we used to refer to as the blind following the blind.

We need to be smarter than that

For example, does your email marketing generate significant, bankable results for your business? It should. Here’s how I helped Irene make over $32,000 in 9 days, with email marketing. Everything improves when you get strategic, so long as you choose the correct strategy for your business.

So, how do you make sure you have the correct strategy in place?

The easiest business decision you will ever make

The decision here is extremely simple, because there are only 2 options for you to choose from. If you’re an entrepreneur, it’s the easiest business decision you will ever make.

Here it is:

  1. If you have a lot of time and a lot of money, you can use trial and error. Dabbling with DIY marketing is extremely costly in time and in missed sales / new clients.
  2. If you don’t have years to waste or money to burn, you can hire a proven marketing expert. He or she can show you exactly what you need to do, so you start moving in the right direction within days.

I never hear from people in that first group. Obviously :)

However, I hear from lots of entrepreneurs who want to pick my brains for the answers their business needs. You are welcome to do the same. It’s a service that is [literally] guaranteed to help you. You can find out more here.

Marketing Tip: Focus on the edges, not the middle!

marketing tips, marketing ideas, sales

The middle ground feels safer. That’s why it’s so crowded. However, the real value comes from pushing what you do to the edges.

There isn’t an area of your business, which you can’t edge. Here are 9 examples to get you started:

  1. Push your copywriting to the edges, so it motivates people to take action.
  2. Push your service to the edges, so it’s of unique value to people.
  3. Push your quality to the edges, so your brand becomes a byword for excellence.
  4. Push your communication skills to the edges, so people are motivated when you speak.
  5. Push your leadership to the edges, so people follow you.
  6. Push your creativity to the edges, so you can find the answers and ideas you need.
  7. Push your courage to the edges, so you do what’s right rather than what feel safe.
  8. Push your commitment to the edges, so your business gets the resources it needs.
  9. Push your visibility to the edges, so prospective clients can find you.

Let others embrace the middle ground. Let them offer average services, to average people, for average fees. You deserve batter than that!

The middle ground is not for you

How do I know? Because the people who read my work are those in search of fresh ideas and answers. You’re not interested in struggling in the middle ground.

Embrace the edges, my friend. Embrace the edges and show your marketplace just how remarkable you are!